► The best PHEVS on sale in the UK
► Covering superminis to supercars
► Why plug-in hybrids cost so much
If you’re not quite ready to go fully electric, a plug-in hybrid car could be your gateway drug – they’re some of the best hybrid cars on sale today. Our favourite plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs), which we’ve listed here, provide a bigger chunk of electric-only travel than mild hybrids, with the reassuring back-up of a modern internal combustion engine. So you won’t get caught short of charge or be forced to stop for half an hour just to put some meaningful range back into the car.
Compared with ordinary or so-called self-charging hybrids, this is a big advantage for a plug-in hybrids. Especially when it comes to negotiating zero-emissions zones and – if you have a shorter commute – could mean you go weeks without visiting a petrol station. Though only if you’re able to keep the batteries fully topped up.
Cheaper than a 100 per cent electric car, plug-in hybrids do however come with a cost penalty and often aren’t as light on their feet as conventional models – both issues related to the size of the drive battery. So if you’re going to buy a plug-in hybrid you’d better a get a good one.
EDITOR’S PICK: CAR magazine’s panel of road testers have driven every hybrid car on sale in 2023, but if we had to choose one, it’d be the BMW X5 xDrive50e. Combining a straight-six with an electric motor, this has a great turn of speed (0-62mph in 4.8sec) but is also much more engaging to drive than a vehicle of this has any right to be.
Keep reading for our full pick of the best plug-in hybrids on sale in the UK.
Best plug-in hybrids in 2023
BMW X5 xDrive50e
Mighty power with surprising poise from this premium plug-in SUV
Pros: Superb to drive with plenty of performance
Cons: Not exactly a clean, green image
With a 3.0-litre straight-six married to a mighty electric motor and all-wheel drive, the BMW X5 PHEV is powerful (was 388bhp, now 483bhp) and fast (0-62mph in 4.8, 155mph) enough to shrug off the weight of its enormous battery pack and still deliver an outstanding driving experience.
What’s more, with a claimed electric driving range of up to 67 miles and a maximum EV speed of 86mph, you’ll be zero emissions in motion a substantial amount of time – the resulting refinement enhanced by the high quality ride and luxurious interior. Prices start from £78,360
Read our BMW X5 review
Range Rover P510e
Best for luxury off-roading with a clean conscience
Pros: Premium design inside and out, 503bhp
Cons: People might think you’re a footballer
The latest Range Rover is a real triumph of luxury motoring, and the P510e plug-in hybrid is the best choice in the range for all-round capability.
With 503bhp it has all the power necessary to shift some serious bulk, and a battery big enough to offer a claimed 68 miles of electric only driving range. Refinement is outstanding, and the interior keeps all the promises made by that smoothly styled exterior. Prices start from £131,355.
Read our Range Rover review
Ferrari 296 GTB
No seriously. It’s a really good plug-in hybrid that happens to look like a supermodel
Pros: 819bhp, 0-62mph in 2.9 seconds – and look at it
Cons: Well, it won’t be much good at Ikea
Plug-in hybrid supercars are nothing new these days, but the majestic, magical Ferrari 296 GTB is a real thriller – and the car that proves a prancing horse no-longer needs a minimum of eight cylinders.
This electric motor-boosted 3.0-litre V6 makes 819bhp, does 0-62mph in 2.9sec and has a top speed of 205mph. It’s also simply sensational to drive. Choose this over a McLaren Artura (read our full review). Prices start from £241,550.
Read our Ferrari 296 GTB review
Best plug-in hybrid if you need seven seats
Pros: More practical than an ID. Buzz
Cons: Worthiness isn’t always next to godliness
If the all-electric VW ID.Buzz (read our full review) isn’t practical enough for you – in terms of people carrying or driving range – then perhaps you should consider the Volkswagen Multivan.
This isn’t quite as cool to look at, but it has a far more flexible interior design and is available with a selection of more flexible drivetrains, including the range-topping eHybrid, which has a 30-mile electric only range and combined 215bhp. Prices start from £49,345.
Read our Volkswagen Multivan review
Long-distance diesel delight with added electric zero emissions capability
Pros: Diesel and electric power make for a huge range and massive efficiency
Cons: If you don’t want diesel you can’t get a Merc PHEV estate
Yes, the d here stands for diesel. But before you immediately reject this otherwise delightful E-Class on that basis, remember that diesel is still a great long-distance fuel. Combine that with the claimed 33- or 34-mile electric range, and you’ve got a real-world 60mpg.
You can buy a petrol-powered E-Class PHEV, if you must, but that one doesn’t come as an estate. And the big boot is brilliant on these. Prices start from £58,475.
Read our Mercedes-Benz E-Class review
Volvo XC60 Recharge
You thought Volvos were sensible? This one has 449bhp
Pros: Combines practicality with outrageous power, good EV-only range too
Cons: Bigger wheels reduce ride comfort
Volvo makes a whole bunch of rather effective plug-in hybrids, but we’ve picked the XC60 Recharge as being nicely applicable to most buyers.
You can choose between T6 and T8 variants, both with nearly 50 miles of claimed electric driving range. Even the 345bhp T6 is a quiet rocketship – the 449bhp T8 is a riot dressed like a geography teacher. Lovely interiors, beware the bigger wheels. Prices start from £60,555.
Read our Volvo XC60 review
You can’t buy an all-electric 3-series, but this is an outstanding substitute
Pros: All the car you’ll ever need
Cons: Bit blunted to drive compared with the best 3ers
Combining a 2.0-litre turbo petrol with an 111bhp electric motor and a battery big enough for up to 37 miles of claimed electric driving, the 330e plug-in hybrid offers a decent blend of driving fun and eco credibility.
With up to 289bhp available for short periods – XtraBoost over the usual 249bhp – it’s very fast. It also comes as a Touring estate car (read our full review), which just puts icing on the cake. Prices start from £44,880.
Read our BMW 330e review
Lexus NX 450h+
The self-charging kings are coming for your plug sockets
Pros: Premium interior, lots of power and comfortable ride
Cons: Lacks dynamism, marmite looks
The Lexus NX is a well-crafted mid-size SUV that stands out from the usual German crowd even before you contemplate the hybrid and plug-in hybrid powertrain options.
It’s not massively exciting, but it is comfortable, and the PHEV has a walloping 305bhp – which it can deliver in near-silence. Claimed electric-only range is over 40 miles, and the infotainment is much better now, we promise. Prices start from £53,300.
Read our Lexus NX review
Hyundai Santa Fe
If you really must have a sensible, seven-seater plug-in hybrid SUV, start here
Pros: A seven-seater that doesn’t compromise compared with non-hybrid models
Cons: A purchase for the mind, not the heart
The Santa Fe might not be as exciting to look at as some other recent Hyundais, but it is a proper seven-seater SUV that’s available as a plug-in hybrid.
Most impressive about the latter is not so much the claimed 36-mile electric range – you’ll be lucky to get much over 20 in real life – but the way you don’t lose any space in the rear seating row. The closely related Kia Sorento (read our full review) is a good option, too, albeit more expensive due to more limited spec. Prices start from £47,560.
Read our Hyundai Santa Fe review
Peugeot 308 Plug-in Hybrid
Ooh la la, it’s the winner of the CAR best plug-in hybrid hatchback group test
Pros: Memorable design and just enough power
Cons: Less fun than the standard car, 27 mile EV range isn’t great
Winner of the CAR PHEV hatchback group test (read the full comparison), the Peugeot 308 Plug-in Hybrid does a fine job of being both eco-practical and fun to drive. A robust 222bhp helps with the latter (the 178bhp versions is barely slower), while around 27 miles of electric-only range manages your expectations of the former.
As with most plug-in hybrids, the refinement also gets a boost, even if the extra wight makes it a little less lively than the standard car. The latest Vauxhall Astra (read our full review) offers similar tech, if you’re looking for an alternative deal. Prices start from £36,900.
Read our Peugeot 308 review
Plug-in hybrids to avoid
There aren’t too many PHEV horror shows out there, but the system on the Alfa Romeo Tonale (read our full review) doesn’t cover itself in glory. And while any Bentley Bentayga is a beautiful place to be, the Bentayga hybrid (read our full review) feel distinctly out of puff as soon as you’ve depleted the battery reserves – a process that doesn’t exactly take long in one of those.